Most of us throughout the world tend to have better moods at weekends and during the first couple of hours of the morning – mood gradually deteriorates as the day develops, researchers from Cornell University reported in the journal Science. They gathered data on 509 million Tweets (Twitter posts) from 2.5 million users in 84 nations around the world over a 24-month period. The authors commented that Twitter for them is much more useful than a medium for checking out celebrities and posting what you did yesterday.

Senior author, Michael Macey, and colleague Scott Golder wrote that most of us across the world appear to go through similar mood rhythms despite our varying cultures, religions and geographical locations. We tend to follow similar mood trends at specific times of the day, and even over seasons.

The investigators found that:

  • Most people have more positive moods during weekends
  • We are usually in a better mood early in the morning than later on
  • As the day progresses, our moods tend to get worse
  • Early morning happy moods tend to occur a couple of hours later during weekends because people get up later
  • Even at weekends, people’s mood cycles follow similar patterns to their weekday ones

The authors found that humans throughout the world go through mood cycles which are influenced by the effects of sleep and circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythm is the 24-hour biological cycle all organisms have – like a body clock.

Golder said:

“We saw that the shape of the rhythm (of people’s moods) is exactly the same on Saturday and Sunday, when many people are not at work. So, clearly something else is playing a role here, whether it’s sleep or biological rhythms.”

They even found these patterns from data gathered from tweets from the United Arab Emirates, where people get up late on Friday and Saturday (they work Sunday through Thursday).

The researchers used a text-analyzing program that identifies and analyzes hundreds of millions of tweets and gauges either positive or negative affect-emotions. The program is called the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count.

According to the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count website, “Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) is a text analysis software program designed by James W. Pennebaker, Roger J. Booth, and Martha E. Francis. LIWC calculates the degree to which people use different categories of words across a wide array of texts, including emails, speeches, poems, or transcribed daily speech. With a click of a button, you can determine the degree any text uses positive or negative emotions, self-references, causal words, and 70 other language dimensions.”

Golder said:

“Positive and negative often sound like they’re opposite ends of a single continuum… but it turns out psychologists do not view affect, or mood, in that way. Instead, there are positive kinds of moods – things like delight or activeness or alertness – that are considered positive. And on the other hand, there are moods that are considered negative affect, which include things like disgust or fear or anxiety.

You might be full of delight but also full of anxiety, and so you may have high positive and negative affect at once,” Golder continued. “So, we really can’t look at them as being opposite ends of a single spectrum.

The difference between this study and previous ones on mood is that this one gathered comments people made unprompted in real time, rather than being stimulated by a prompter or asked to remember things. It observed and gathered data of real life behavior as it happened.

Golder said:

“You could always survey really large numbers of people or you could study small numbers of people really closely. But as we’ve done in this study, it’s now becoming possible to passively observe millions of people acting in their native environments for a long time without disturbing them or inducing what is known as ‘experimenter demand effects.'”

Adapted from a piece written by Brandon Bryn, of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science)

Written by Christian Nordqvist